Valdez uses diverse materials to generate paintings and mixed media
works that visually give form to memory and the human condition. By
employing various painting, collage, and printmaking techniques, Valdez
is able to develop a unique pictorial language that evolves out of a
combination of his intuition, imagination, experiences and memory. The
artist studies the form and texture of objects that he finds visually
appealing and uses them for the basis of a work of art. Many of these
objects are stored away in his memory to be used as reoccurring motifs
in future paintings.
in Santo Domingo, The Dominican Republic, Valdez relocated to the United
States permanently in 1993 when he received a fellowship to work at
the Bob Blackburn Printmaking Workshop in New York City. It was during
this time that Valdez added his use of the silhouette, an important
element in his current work, to his already existing vocabulary. Valdez's
use of the silhouette addresses issues of identity and self-reflection.
In an interview the artist stated: "The silhouette became a point
of synthesis in my work and then I began to use the self-portrait as
a mode of self-reflection." He projected light onto his body to
create a shadow, which was then outlined on the canvas by the artist
or an assistant. The use of his own physical form, however is a personal
investigation of self and cultural history.
in residence at the Studio Museum of Harlem (1997-1998), Valdez has
further explored his unique use of his body as a template for an ever
evolving human presence. Currently, Valdez juxtaposes one silhouette
on top of another to give the illusion of a figure in motion. The human
presence is no longer static but in a place of transition, a place of
constant motion and energy- it becomes an aura. The human form can once
again reference the artist's personal transitory state as a Dominican
relocated an d living in the United States.
spite of his continued residence in New York, Valdez consciously maintains
his connection to Latin America through the use of cultural symbols,
poetry and music that are indigenous to the Caribbean. He also incorporates
other sources including, petroglyph images that are hulled from the
caves of the Taíno Indians, western Greco Roman mythology, his
everyday surrounding and his fine art background. Particular types of
turtles and lizards of Latin mythology appear in his work, suggesting
his retention of legends. Another Latin American artist using these
motifs include Juan Sánchez who often investigates his parent
culture using a contemporary visual vocabulary and his experiences as
a Nuyorican as a back drop.
dialectical approach to his work fuses his past with his present and
allows him to use the canvas as a quilt, weaving the fabric of his experiences
with elements of his cultural heritage. Many of his works pay homage
to the quilt-making tradition where there is an investment in retaining
sentimental objects to create a compilation that encapsulates memories.
The patch-work of collage drawings is patterned on the canvas like pieces
of cloth and engages the viewer in a retrieval that touches on themes
ranging from nature to cultural retention.
Te Regalo Una Rosa ( I Give You A Rose ), 1998, takes its title from
a poem by the Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. In this piece, Valdez collages
the entire canvas with joss paper. Relying on his incredible sense of
color and skill, the artist sees the gold of the paper as a chance to
make hi canvas glow like illuminated manuscripts. He sees his layering
of the canvas with this paper as a way of preserving the memory of precious
observations or experiences. Fruits, plants, and animals which are evocative
of ancient African and Central American culture are painted and drawn
on each swatch of paper, making individual squares and rectangles isolated
chambers for memories. Many of the drawings synthesize elements from
various objects and symbolic forms (such as fruits, plants and sculptures)
to create his own unique visual language. He often uses the bleeding
heart of Christ layered with a drawing of a strawberry to call attention
to how close they are in appearance and to reconnect man with nature.
He is not as interested in the actual religion as he is in the relics
and symbols that define various belief systems. Another motif in his
work is the Yuca plant which was the foremost crop in his home country
and also is represented in Taíno mythology by Yucahu, the god
of creation and the yuca.
Julio Valdez is invested in the exploration of color, texture, and imagination.
The work produced while in residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem
demonstrates his development as an artist who can successfully merge
his interest in abstraction with his unique reinterpretation of the
Coordinator, Education Department, Whitney Museum of American Art
and Guest Curator, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York City.